Monday, February 22, 2010

Brace Yourself

If you have seen me around town, you may have noticed that I was wearing braces on my hands. For the last year or so.

People ask me almost every single day why I am wearing them, and I'm pretty tired of answering, actually. I really appreciate it when people don't ask or notice. As I put it to my coworker and friend, Shawna, "These braces are really cramping my style."

However, because I am writing this post ABOUT said braces, let me explain that I wear these braces because I have carpal tunnel syndrome. And yes, I have it pretty dang bad.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an inflammation of the tissues surrounding the nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel (a passageway of sorts) in between all of those little bones in the wrist. It can be caused by several different things, such as repetitive, non-ergonomic motion, or even vitamin deficiencies in your body. When your nerve is surrounded by these inflamed tissues, it "chokes" the nerve of good blood supply and proper nerve conduction, and ultimately with time can cause permanent nerve death.

Symptoms of this horrible condition include painful burning numbness in the hand (especially while lying down), weakness in the wrist and hand, shooting pains in the arm, stiffness in the fingers, etc.

Further complicating the issue, Nathan and I do not currently have health insurance. This is a source of constant, intense worry for me. Plus, the most common treatment for this condition is to have surgery. Surgery is very very expensive, and it also seems so drastic.

Now, before you leave me lots of comments about how your mother-in-law's high school boyfriend had the surgery and it totally worked, or how your college professor had it too, and it didn't work at all for him... let me tell you, I've heard it all. Literally, I have heard so many carpal tunnel stories I could probably write a book.

Because I wanted surgery to be a last resort, I chose to seek an alternative method of treatment. (One that I could afford). I went to see a highly recommended Chiropractor in Provo named Dr. Brady. He really is awesome, and he offers a student discount! I've been seeing him twice a week, once a week, and now every other week since November 6th of last year. I have seen a big improvement, that is for sure. The feeling has returned to the tips of my fingers (hooray! no more burning or cutting my fingers without realizing it!), but it is in no way cured. I don't think that I will ever get my wrists back to normal without pursuing more drastic treatment.

I came to this conclusion at about 4:30 am last Saturday morning after having only slept two hours. All symptoms of CTS are worse when lying down, and often I cannot find relief unless I am sitting upright. Sometimes, I sit upright most of the night, dozing pathetically in the blue light of the television. I thought to myself in the wee hours of the morning,

"I'm done. I cannot do this anymore."

I talked to Dr. Brady today, and he agreed that perhaps it is time to get the surgery. I don't feel that my 4 months with Dr. Brady have been in vain though.. He probably saved the nerves in my fingers from permanent damage.

We do have enough in savings to pay for the surgery outright, but it is still going to be VERY expensive, especially for two young married kids who work part time. If I get both wrists done, it could be as much as $8,000.

Ugh. It makes my stomach turn just thinking about that enormous number.

I called the surgeon today to set up my first $200-300 consultation appointment. (I'm a little bitter that it will cost me almost a whole paycheck just to have this important person grace me with his presence for a few minutes of his day). I was relieved when I was put on hold due to "a high volume of calls" as the pleasant-voiced, pre-recorded woman informed me.

I hung up.

Maybe tomorrow I will have the courage to follow through. I would appreciate it if you included us in your prayers while we are making this big decision.


Jeff said...

Damn BLuce, stealing your fingers. Good luck Katy, you'll be in my prayers

Rachael Thomas said...

Aw... good luck Katy! You will be in my prayers! Let me know if there is anything I can do!

Allison said...

Katy, I had no idea it was that bad. But if you have that surgery, I am positive that everything will work out. It always has for you and Nathan. Two such cases include when you guys got a new house that was significantly bigger than your former studio apartment, but didn't really have to pay that much more for it. Or when Nathan had the accident at work. Months earlier I remember you cringing in worry at the thought of Nathan getting injured at work, as you guys didn't have insurance, but it worked out. He was covered. You guys didn't have to move into a box and eat ramen for the rest of your lives. I'm certain that because this surgery is a 'need' and not just a 'want,' you'll be taken care of.

Anonymous said...

You're probably in Utah, but down in Houston there is the Brown Hand Center which specializes in the endoscopic treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. It's minimally invasive (1/2 inch incisions) and done as an outpatient surgery. You're back up and running within a week. Dr Brown is very well respected and this is a procedure he developed and perfected. I think he has Hand Centers in Houston, Phoenix, Dallas and Las Vegas. His website is

LuckySevens said...

I'm so sorry to hear that. I hope all goes well for you guys!

Questionable Antics said...

Man, I thought I was alone in this thing. I'm in almost the exact same boat as you. I have to wear braces on both wrists and I don't have health insurance. However, after a recent blood test, my doctor changed my diagnosis from CTS, to rheumatoid arthritis.